Documentary Films About War

Documentary Films About War

War is a subject that has endlessly fascinated filmmakers for generations. Its cinematic themes make for engaging viewing, and its broad range of issues and nuances can be approached from numerous different viewpoints.

The films offered on today’s list do just that: addressing the concept of war from many different angles.

The Unknown Know

This documentary delves into the life, career and mindset of Donald Rumsfield: Defense Secretary to the George W. Bush administration. The film’s title comes from Rumsfield’s famous line concerning the conditions of alleged weapons of mass destruction thought to be hidden in Iraq at the time.

The film has a rather simple premise, but therein lies its charm. The camera simply runs, allowing Rumsfield to talk and explain himself in his own words. He comes across as a man who played a key role in sparking a terrible war, but also as someone who is likeable, charismatic and relatable.

Dirty War

America is currently engaged in a number of small-scale, covert wars. This is general public knowledge, but is rarely discussed due to the lack of victims. This film uncovers the details of these wars. Dirty War begins with the exploration of one particular raid in Afghanistan, before later turning to the Joint Special Operations Command and their work during the war.

Only the Dead

Only the Dead is a film which rallies around the real-life footage of the Iraq war. The footage was taken by journalist Michael Ware during his 7-year tenure in Iraq. Only the Dead is a film about his time in the country, and his contact with Al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi.

5 Broken Cameras

5 Broken Cameras is produced by Palestinian villager and film-enthusiast Emad. The film chronicles day-to-day life in a Palestinian village, with special focus on the night raids organized by the Israeli government. Five of his cameras were shot down or destroyed over the period of filming, hence the film’s title. 5 Broken Cameras was nominated for an Academy Award in 2013.


Restrepo is a 2010 film which made quite the splash after its award-winning showcase at Sundance. At the time, it was heralded as one of the best war films ever produced. The film focuses on the deployment of one Army platoon in Afghanistan’s hostile Korengal Valley. The crew followed the platoon for 15 months, living with the Army and sharing their experiences in real time.

The Confession: Living the War on Terror

Moazzam Begg has an abundance of expertise on the issue of Jihad and Islamic terrorism, having spent time on the front lines of the opposing side. He tells a story of imprisonment in Bagram and Guantanamo, from the rebel training camps in Syria to the prison cells of Belmarsh in Britain. His accounts are first-hand experiences, creating a unique learning experience about a war with which we have become all-too-familiar.


Which films would you add to our list, and why?